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The Bookshelf, May 2018

I had a minor crisis earlier this month. I read all the books on my Kindle.

I had no more new books to read.

It was terrible.

Thankfully after a few days, my library queue caught up with me and I now have way too many books to read again. Here’s a few.

What I’m Reading

Barking to the Choir, by Gregory Doyle. Do I laugh? Do I cry? I do both. A Jesuit priest working with gang members in LA. “We find ourselves on the lookout for moments of spaciousness and calm, when our hearts can be restored again to a place of beauty, innocence, and wholeness. Then we can hear what the Sufis call, “the voice of the Beloved.”

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins, about valuing our creative work as writers

Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic by Nora Gallagher

Riverine by Angela Palm

Home, James, by Emily Steele Jackson, a novel about a young Third Culture Kid

The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers (mentions Djibouti!). I loved this book, a fun, informative read on coffee and a riveting ride through Yemen just as the war broke out.

No Man’s Land by Eula Biss (finally, this showed up in my library but I highlighted so much I should probably just buy it)

A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf. I get bored sometimes, reading other people’s diaries, but I really appreciate how honest she is about the issues of pride and of receiving criticism well, or not.

Voices in the Air, poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. “Reading and writing poetry gives us more yutori – a place to stand back and contemplate what we are living and experiencing. More spaciousness in being, more room in which to listen.” (Yutori is a Japanese word meaning essentially, life-space)

Original Blessing, by Danielle Shoyer. Another book in which I highlighted something on nearly every page. “Original blessing is the stubborn assertion not that we are perfect, but that we are loved. And this love has the power to transform even our shadows into light.”

 

What are you reading?

Good Things, the Tenth. April 2018

This month almost got away from me without keeping track. I missed a few days and had to remember what had happened then.

Here’s my good things from April. Paying attention and taking note of one good thing, every day.

*****

1 Extreme egg hunting among thorns, trash, skull graffiti, and donkeys

2 Teenagers babysitting. Pillow fights. Tackle time. General awesome chaos

3 Settlers

4 family road trip north

5 long-term friend, sharing my heart

6 40

7 a surprise 40-celebration with cupcakes

8 teenage humor and a scary mannequin baby

9 brother! nephew!

10 kayaking at sunset down snaking rivers through mangroves

11 camel train at lac assal

12 here’s the International School of Djibouti!

13 SCUBA diving, snorkeling off hidden beaches, rain on the boat

14 sunrise service at Turtle Island, one life deeply impacted

15 a beach emergency, my nephew keeping calm, my son taking charge like a pro, my daughters helping and keeping spirits up, excellent urgent care at the French hospital from German surgeons. #scaredbutthankful

16 school board meeting with coworkers and friends who share the vision and are eager to be involved

17 cooking.so.much.good.food. #openhousetomorrow

18 people from all aspects of our lives, from all over the globe, celebrating our graduating twins

19 waffle bar Thursday and Settlers

20 local running team sprinting past me, the slow 40-year old, including two girls in head scarves, spandex shorts, and tank tops. Rock on, girls!

21 three kids walking into the sunset together, last night in this country for two of them

22 tears at the airport

23 empathy from a fellow mom of boarding school kids

24 bacon bits

25 a quiet, empty house

26 phone calls with giggling 12-year olds

27 Turkish kebabs, bread, and expressing thanks for good husbands

28 coffee with a global friend

29 a hike in Arta Town at sunset

30 the power came back on. Eventually.

The Bookshelf, April 2018

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately and want to share highlights, perhaps one of these books will resonate with you.

Question for expats: I get 90% of my books through my US county kindle library. I first search my library for a book I hear about. If I don’t find it, I look it up on Amazon and usually toss it into my wishlist. I find that if I click back through to the same book five or more times, it is something I should consider purchasing. We just don’t have the budget to buy all the books I would like to. How do you obtain books? Library? Kindle? Purchased? Gifted?

I was Told to Come Alone by Souad Mekhennet, “If I’ve learned anything, it’s this: a mother’s screams over the body of her murdered child sound the same, no matter if she is black, brown, or white; Muslim, Jewish, or Christian; Shia or Sunni. We will all be buried in the same ground.”

The Homing Instinct by Bernd Heinrich, “For other animals, and for us, home is a ‘nest’ where we live, where our young are reared. It is also the surrounding territory that supports us. “Homing” is migrating to and identifying a suitable area for living and reproducing and making it fit our needs, and the orienting and ability to return to our own good place if we are displaced from it. Homing is highly specific for each species, yet similarly relevant to most animals.”

On Edge, a journey through anxiety by Andrea Peterson “Research shows, however, that anxiety is linked to some aspects of perfectionism but not others. Specifically, while anxious people are concerned about mistakes and doubt their actions, they don’t necessarily have superhigh personal standards. Worriers actually tend to lower their standards when stressed out. It isn’t that they want to be the best. They just don’t want to mess up.”

Thirst (again, because really, what else can you read while camping on the beach?) by Mary Oliver.

All afternoon the sea was a muddle of birds

black and spiky,

long-necked, slippery…

God, how did it ever come to you to invent Time?

The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L. Heuertz. “The contemporary Enneagram of Personality illustrates the nine ways we get lost, but also the nine ways we can come home to our True Self. Put another way, it expresses the nine ways we lie to ourselves about who we think we are, nine ways we can come clean about those illusions, and non ways we can find our way back to God.”

Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Believed, by Kate Bowler. She writes about dealing with a cancer diagnosis in the context of the prosperity gospel. “What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, “You are limitless?” Everything is not possible. The mighty Kingdom of God is not yet here. What if rich did not have to mean wealthy, and whole did not have to mean healed? What if being people ‘of the gospel’ meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough.”

Bird By Bird (again) by Anne Lamott. I won’t share a direct quote, other than three words most writers already know Anne Lamott for: “Shitty first draft.” Or, SFD, if you don’t like the language. Yup. And sometimes second and third drafts, too. But hopefully not.

Misunderstood, by Tanya Crossman (a great, researched read about Third Culture Kids). So many things I could quote here, but I’ll go back to the basics. “The ‘Third Culture’ is a concept, not a count. The three cultures of a Third Culture Kid are not three locations or people groups, but three categories of influence.” And those categories are: the host culture, the passport culture, and the in between space in which TCKs find themselves.

What are you reading?

Acclimating to Africa, a Book Review

Debbi DiGennaro sent me her book Acclimated to Africa last week (full disclosure, she sent it for a review).

Have you read African Friends and Money Matters? I found that book helpful, while simplistic and limited in scope. This book reads in much the same style, as Debbi unpacks some significant cultural differences between African and Western cultures.

To be honest, my only real criticism of the book is this set up: African/Western. Debbi directly addresses this and her explanation makes good sense. It is true that narrowing down the focus would make for an entirely different book, so I’m glad she discussed her choice. Still, I found it grating to read over and over about Africans and African culture. We’re talking about fifty-four countries, hundreds of people groups, hundreds of languages. My co-worker from Zimbabwe had a very different response to African Friends and Money Matters than my co-worker from Kenya did and both said the book had a highly West African bent to most of the issues.

That said, many of the topics Debbi raises are major issues in cross-cultural adaptation, no matter what the specific cultural traditions are – gift giving, value of relationships, managing money, perspectives on time, birth, death, spirituality, and so much more. From deep cultural differences to things that on the surface appear minor, Debbi unpacks much of what a Westerner can expect to encounter in daily life on the continent.

Adaptation and cultural competence requires patience, self-forgiveness, curiosity, and a willingness to be changed. Too many expatriates assume that if they eat local food, wear local clothes, and use a few local words, they have adapted.

Wrong.

Cross cultural adaptation is so much deeper than these things, it is almost laughable, if our failure to adapt weren’t so sad and inter-personally damaging. It is pretty easy to eat ugali with my fingers. It is far harder to change the way I see time or possessions or faith or grief.

With humor, clarity, and relying on local perspective, Debbi pokes holes in this theory of easy cross-cultural adaptation. The major takeaway for me from her book is how challenging and rewarding that adaptation is. The only way to do it well is through ever-deepening relationships, with persistent humility, and a good sense of humor.

I would recommend Acclimated to Africa as a resource for opening up conversations on teams, among coworkers, between neighbors and friends. Know that it is only a guide, though, and be sure to ask your own host community how their perspective differs or is similar. As has become so common now to restate, thanks to the wonderful Chimamanda Adiche, author of Americanah, there is no single story.

Use this as a guide to your international growth, let yourself be challenged, and learn to see the world from another perspective.

You will never regret that.

You can find Acclimated to Africa here and read more about Debbi at her website here.

 

Finding Home Book BOGO Pre-Order Bonus

Finding Home: Third Culture Kids in the World is coming out on May 22, 2018!

Read on to find out how to get a FREE COPY!

You can order the book now. Like right now. Today. Pre-order, that is.

Why would you want to do that?

Because if you do, you’ll get the pre-order bonus of Buy One, Get One. BOGO!

Yup. If you buy the book, I will gift another copy of it to the person of your choice. So really, its you gifting them the book.

Pre order the book, email me (rachelpiehjones(@)gmail(dot)com) and let me know you’ve ordered (include a copy of the receipt) and let me know who you would like to send the free book to. Also include their email address (I won’t add it to my lists or do anything weird with it, I promise to only use it to send them their book). I’ll include a message explaining who is sending them the book as well as any other note you might like me to include.

Who would you want to gift it to?

Third Culture Kids in your life

A graduating senior

Parents who are thinking of making the move abroad

Grandparents of TCKs

Educators

People in your company/sending organization/NGO leadership

Friends

Anyone you would like to engage in conversation about TCK topics

Anyone at all

Know someone who loves or is and engages with a Third Culture Kid but who might not find this book, or might not buy it, or might not pay for it?

Gift it to them.

Pre-order here.

Tell me you did it, send me the info, and the day the book is released, they will get a special surprise in their inbox.